Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Quebec Syndrome

The Quebec syndrome strikes every federal government almost from its inception. Otherwise rational and responsible men are suddenly seized with the overwhelming urge to spend taxpayers' money in the vain hope that this project or that program will stir within Quebecois hearts the loyalty and passion towards Canada which has hitherto lain dormant.

In its worst manifestations, it produces Adscam and CF-18 contracts.

Its milder outbreaks, however, are no less dangerous to the health of the Canadian body politic.

Sometimes it's a little illegal referendum spending to save the country, for what are mere campaign finance laws when the unity of the Dominion is in peril?

Sometimes it's promises of jobs, jobs, jobs, even when said jobs are merely being moved over the Ottawa River without the jobholders' spending following along.

No government, Liberal or Conservative, is immune therefrom.

The only cure would a radical Quebecectomy, but even that might be worse than the disease.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The 950 Million Dollar Man

If you were wondering just why Jean Charest could be so foolish as to try to force an election three months after the last one over a tax cut even Mario Dumont says Quebec can't afford, here's why:

Under Quebec parliamentary rules the budget can't be amended in the course of debate. But a complementary financial statement could be added, giving in to the PQ insistence on increased funding for special education, seniors' care and regional development.

While PQ leader-in-waiting Marois was holding the hard line on the weekend, interim PQ leader Francois Gendron said anything that could prevent another election merits consideration. "There haven't been any discussions so far, but I'm open."

So what will be given with the right hand, will be taken back with the left.

And the most useless election call in Quebec history will be avoided, three months after the last one.

Source: Montreal Gazette

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jerked Around

Some jerk with a beef at Toronto mayor David Miller threw a piece of beef jerky at him at City Hall yesterday.

This tragic event clearly underscores the need for a national dried meat registry.

Source: National Post


You always get more of what you reward.

A year of letting the goons at Caledonia squat on their neighbours' land and a couple of railway blockades allowed to continue in defiance of court orders has only encouraged the Assembly of First Nations--presumably not the most radical of Indian organizations--to side with the lawbreakers:

Canada's native chiefs will pressure the national railways to close down for the Assembly of First Nations' "day of action" on June 29, backing it up with a veiled threat they will probably face blockades from individual native bands if they refuse.

The carrot-and-stick approach was adopted nearly unanimously by chiefs at a special conference of the AFN, where chiefs who prefer more diplomatic political efforts were pushed to adopt tougher tactics by those who want to threaten economic disruptions to pressure the government.

This is indirect extortion against the railways--shut themselves down and cost the people millions of dollars, or be shut down and cost them even more.

Not one land claim will be settled, not one job created, not one child fed, because of these threats and blockades.

But outside sympathy for the cause will be lost.

Source: Globe and Mail

Monday, May 21, 2007

Why We Fight Them Over There

So that we don't have to fight this sort of bizarre reasoning over here:

Cairo's al-Azhar Islamic University on Monday suspended a lecturer who suggested that men and women work colleagues could use symbolic breastfeeding to get around a religious ban on being alone together.

The lecturer, Ezzat Atiya, had drawn on Islamic traditions which forbid sexual relations between a man and a woman who has breastfed him to suggest that symbolic breastfeeding could be a way around strict segregation of males and females.


The Dubai-based channel Al Arabiya quoted him as saying that after five breastfeedings the man and woman could be alone together without violating Islamic law and the woman could remove her headscarf to reveal her hair.

Even the most benighted of multiculturalists might consider this to be taking accomodation a bit too far. We think. We hope.

Source: Reuters

Right Back Where We Started From

To see the latest polls showing the Tories barely ahead of the Grits, you would expect panic in the Conservative ranks, and jubilation amongst the Liberals.

The lack of such response on either side is indicative of the recognition that what's happening now is the usual mid-to-late term malaise of any government that has accomplished most of its stated priorities, faced the usual initial scandals and problems, and is now casting about to set its next election platform. Certainly no joy for the Tories, but also no joy for the Grits, who have both exhausted much energy to end up treading water.

Which is why Stephen Harper won't be taking much of a summer holiday. The summer is a perfect time to draft the next election platform, with bigger and bolder ideas, active as opposed to being merely reactive.

But such is the problem of a government that accomplishes most of its stated objectives: so much energy gets invested in doing so that there's not enough left to deal with the problems that arise almost out of nowhere.

No party can win power without a platform, but no government can just stand on its platform, either.

Source: Globe and Mail

Thursday, May 17, 2007


If I block my neighbour's driveway and claim that his house is sitting on land that's rightfully mine based on a story that my great-great-great grandfather used it and never actually got around to deeding it over to anyone else, or didn't really know what deeding it over actually meant, I'd be lucky to get away with just an injunction to take the sawhorses down.

If I threatened to make even further trouble, I might find myself behind bars before long.

Indian land claim protesters, however, seem to be able to make these threats with impunity:

Court injunctions barring blockades on rail lines will do little to deter frustrated First Nations residents from staging similar demonstrations across the country, an aboriginal protester who led an eastern Ontario blockade said Thursday.

"I don't believe that an injunction changes the circumstances that people live in across this country," protest leader Shawn Brant said outside court Thursday. "I don't believe it serves to resolve those issues."

Shawn Brant's comments came after Ontario Superior Court Justice Colin Campbell temporarily upheld an injunction Thursday barring further blockades on the lines operated by Canadian National Railway.

Campbell granted the injunction last month after Brant and a group of protesters, members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation, set up a 30-hour rail blockade near Deseronto, Ont., some 30 kilometres west of Kingston.

"This injunction or these proceedings, in fact, will bring about a reaction, and maybe an unintended reaction, that CN wasn't looking for," Brant said outside the court.

Is that so, Mr. Brant?

Perhaps his bravado will diminish after a night in a holding cell for contempt of court.

Regardless of what one might think about native land claims--and the history of conquest shows that they've been given much more consideration to their claims than most conquered peoples centuries after the fact--letting them get away with blockades only encourages more of the same, and worse.

Things got mighty quiet around Oka after the Mohawk Warriors got the point that the army could take them down.

Around Caledonia, the OPP's inaction has just kept the matter dragging and dragging on.

What will it take to show the blockaders that they'll be dealt with like any other law breakers?

Source: Toronto Star

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gulag By The Sea

The horrors of Guantanamo Bay, America's very own Dachau, beside which the Black Hole of Calcutta was a stately pleasure drome, continue unabated according to the testimony of those who languish therein:

An accused enemy combatant held at Guantanamo Bay told a military hearing he was physically as well as mentally tortured there by having to read a newsletter full of 'crap,' being forced to use unscented deodorant and shampoo and having to play sports with a ball that would not bounce.

Majid Khan of Pakistan denied any connection to Al Qaeda and said he was tortured and his family hounded by U.S. authorities, according to a redacted transcript released Tuesday by the Pentagon.

Khan told an April 15 hearing called to determine whether he was rightly classified as an "enemy combatant" that he also had his baby pictures taken from him, that cleaners left marks on his cell walls and that detainees have no DVD players or other entertainment.


He said he has been unable to see his daughter, was denied communal recreation for 11 weeks, went four weeks without sunlight and fresh air, was deprived of basic or comfort items for three weeks, had his beard shaved twice and was forced to wear a protective suicide prevention smock.

And he complained that he was only given cheap unscented soap and shampoo, and that in the recreation room there is "no weight lifting machine, no toilet, no sink, ho hoops, and even balls them self have little air in them; they hardly bounce."

Tough. He's obviously never done time in one of Ontario's county jails, where he could only dream of balls with hardly any bounce, and getting jumped or shanked is the substitute recreation. Where people who truly don't deserve to be behind bars end up all too often. Where the weakest get introduced to the alternative lifestyle, forcibly.

He's probably cleaner, healthier and better-fed than he was running around the northwest frontier of Pakistan from cave to rock pile, dodging bombs and bullets. And in much less danger from his fellows, and his jailers, than the inmates at the county jail.

As for his claims of torture, take them with a grain of salt. Or a whole boxful. He wouldn't be the first of them instructed to lie or exaggerate for propaganda purposes.

Source: Fox News

Monday, May 14, 2007

Follow The Money, If You Can

Federal child care plan:

Give the provinces $2 billion.



Officials in Ottawa have few clues as to how well the cash was spent by most provinces since 2004. Provincial reports are months or even years overdue - when they're provided at all.

It's a blind spot that critics loudly warned about when past Liberal governments first started funding a national child-care system that was seen by many as encroaching on provincial social-policy turf.


A chart compiled by the association says reports for 2004-05 have still not been filed by Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta, the Yukon or Nunavut.

The federal government's own child-care reports are missing for 2004-05 and 2005-06 "for a number of reasons," said Glennie Graham, director of child and youth policy for Human Resources.


Just five of 10 provinces reported on federal cash for the fiscal year 2004-05, and only Saskatchewan and British Columbia have filed for 2005-06, Lysack says.

Nonetheless, another $950 million was transferred from Ottawa to provincial and territorial governments in the last fiscal year. Senior officials with the federal Human Resources Department confirmed the missing data.

With this deal, the provinces get the best of all worlds. They take the money, don't tell the feds where it's gone because it's a provincial matter, then hold out their hands for more.

For all we know, it went to beer and popcorn.

Yet another reason for the feds to stop buying their way into provincial jurisdiction.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

In And Out

Everybody thought that the Parti Quebecois, left broken and bloodied by a third-place finish in the recent election, its ambiguously separatist thunder stolen by Mario Dumonts's "autonomism," was begging for Gilles Duceppe to come take over and lead it back to the promised land of independence.

Everybody, it seems, except the actual party militants, who couldn't run from Duceppe fast enough:

Within 24 hours of announcing he was running for the leadership of the Parti Québécois, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe stunned the sovereignty movement by dropping out of the race.

Mr. Duceppe's organizers quickly realized that their strategy to take over the PQ had failed miserably and that an unpredictably strong level of support had quickly moved behind former PQ senior minister Pauline Marois, the only other declared candidate in the race.

The battle of titans everyone expected will not take place. A series of events that unfolded late Friday and all day Saturday convinced Mr. Duceppe that he would do better to remain Bloc Leader in Ottawa than pursue his strategy to become PQ leader.

A poll conducted by Crop for the Montreal daily La Presse on Saturday showed a vast majority of Quebeckers — 45 per cent — preferred Ms. Marois as PQ leader over Mr. Duceppe, who received the backing of 21 per cent. Mr. Duceppe reached the conclusion he didn't have the support.

"The Crop poll clearly showed an important and insurmountable trend in support of Ms. Marois. This was not visible two weeks ago," Mr. Duceppe's chief of staff François Leblanc said Saturday.

Actually it was visible even before the race began, but most commentators, having little knowledge of the PQ's peculiar nature, completely missed it.

Gilles Duceppe's political career, his youthful Marxist follies aside, has been defined by the Bloc Quebecois, from the day he became its first by-elected MP following Meech Lake's demise. He is not now, and has never been, a real pequiste , and the Bloc has never been simply the federal branch of the PQ.

He does not enjoy the same stature that Lucien Bouchard did when he went from leading the BQ to the PQ. He did not follow the same trail of tears that Bouchard followed along with so many Quebecois, from dashed hopes in federalism to renewed commitment to independence. Nor has he been with the PQ during its early days, its glory days, and its darkest hours.

Duceppe, unlike Pauline Marois, has no real roots in the PQ. The PQ, by the nature of its vision, does not take well to mere opportunists trying to jump to the head of the parade.

Duceppe's coronation was never going to happen; once Pauline Marois stepped in, he knew it, and he was left with no choice but to quit in an embarrassing manner.

The fact that the Bloc will take him back so readily is also a further sign of the Bloc's chief weakness: it has become, for all intents and purposes, the party of Gilles Duceppe. There is no one within its ranks with the necessary stature to succeed him and surpass him.

Gilles Duceppe just came out the loser here, but so did the BQ. Now they get to stumble along together for a fifth election, unable to extract themselves from each other.

Source: Globe and Mail

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Party Of None

You'll all remember how the Progressive Canadian Party swept the country like wildfire right after its founding, after millions of progressive-conservative Canadians left disenfranchised by the merger of the PCs with the Alliance flocked to the one party in the land left that represented the noble vision of Joe Clark.

Or maybe you didn't.

You will also remember that glorious day when millions left no less disenfranchised by the end of the Reform and Alliance parties abandoned the Conservative Party en masse to join the revived Reform party.

Or maybe you won't.

Dissatisfaction is the foundation of many a new political party, but that alone will not support a party in the long run. Nor will hankering for a past golden age that never was.

Anarchy Now

To the radical left, Jeff Monaghan, the low-level civil servant and lower-level amateur anarchist, is a hero for leaking the Conservative government's environment plans to meet (sort of) the Kyoto targets (maybe).

To hear him at press conferences, one would think he was a modern-day Daniel Ellsberg, leaking the Pentagon Papers out of pure patriotism and desire for peace and right to triumph.

And so he might be, in his own mind.

But is it not hypocritical for a self-styled radical anarchist to be in the employ of government?

Monaghan believes that there's no government like no government. The government should respect his beliefs and fire him at once.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Last Post: Dwight Wilson, 1901-2007

Such was the hecatomb of the First World War that boys of 15 could make their way into armed service without their true age being discovered, even in death.

Such was the call to arms if lucky enough to be caught and discharged, many of them would try to sneak their way back into service.

Such is the difference between our time and then, that few could even think of late teenage boys trying to do the same to serve in Afghanistan, or anywhere else where Canadian men are at arms.

Such were the men, and such were the times, that permit us now the luxury of forgetting the price paid.

Do not forget.

Source: Canada.com

Frequent Flyer Continued

Another cabinet minister plays fast and loose with the rules of disclosure of public expenditure:

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon made regular use of a government executive jet last year while keeping the trips off his travel expenses, documents show.

He's the second minister this week to have his travel habits exposed using government documents obtained by the NDP through an Access to Information Act request.

It's an embarrassing lapse of transparency for a government in the midst of trumpeting new accountability legislation in the House of Commons.

Transport Canada's aircraft flight log shows at least six trips taken by Cannon in 2006 aboard a sleek Citation C-550 executive jet that do not appear in his ministerial expenses posted on the department's website, as mandated by the federal Treasury Board.


Catherine Loubier, Cannon's communications director, confirmed there is no distinction between "program-related business'' and departmental business.

But she said the minister can't claim for costs incurred by the department. If the Transport Canada flight was the only expense for the minister's trip, he has nothing to declare, said Loubier.

"We have nothing to hide. This is public information.''

Again, the public will not draw such technical distinctions, true as they might be. This is not a club the government can afford to have the opposition beat them with. There is no national interest at risk in disclosing the particulars of these flights. Disclose and keep this from becoming a running sore.

Source: CTV

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Frequent Flyer

What's the difference between a ministerial expense and a departmental expense on behalf of the minister?

Who cares?

The public aren't accountants; all they'll see is coverup:

Federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said Monday he can’t do his job "by bicycle" but could not explain why his ministerial travel expenses failed to disclose a penny of almost $150,000 worth of charter flights last year.

The Conservatives have made a virtue of their ministerial frugality since taking office, but opposition MPs are now crying foul saying the government is simply hiding such expenses in different books.

Blackburn used the rental planes to tour Quebec as the regional economic development minister for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But only eight of some 25 flights appeared in his quarterly "proactive disclosure" of expenses last year, and all eight listed air fare as zero.

This government needs to come up with an election platform, and soon, to get itself and the public attention focussed on getting things done as opposed to the endless nagging pinpricks from the opposition and accumulation of minor gaffes like the one above.

No one ever won an election by saying: "We did what we said we'd do. We don't know what we're going to do next. But whatever it is, we'll do it."

Monday, May 07, 2007

Help Wanted, Desperately

Even in the most rundown, yellow dog Liberal corners of Toronto, the provincial Progressive Conservatives can run competitive nomination races, if only between two no-names willing to go kamikaze in hopes of future preferment or out of the obligation of long service.

Kingston may be no less a Liberal rotten borough, but it's a sign of how bad matters are getting under John Tory's leadership that it has to run want ads for sacrificial lambs.

But perhaps this was to be expected, considering that John Tory did everything he could to block Randy Hillier from the Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington nomination and failed.

Many conservative and populist party members detest John Tory privately even as they praise him publicly, as another Toronto establishment figure, an even redder Tory than Bill Davis with none of the redeeming qualities. They'll be sitting out the October election, or going through the motions, with the hope that a second McGuinty majority will force him to take the hint.

As incompetent the McGuinty government has been, it won't be facing the most inspired opposition campaign.

At least in the 2008 provincial leadership race, the party won't have to run want ads.

Head Not To Roll

Everybody has been crying for Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor's head ever since the first reports came out about Afghan detainees being handed over by Canadian forces to local authorities for certain torture.

Everybody, it seems, except the general public:

A new Ipsos Reid poll, conducted exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National, found 53 per cent of Canadians believe it is unfair for opposition parties to call for Mr. O'Connor to step down as they have been doing almost every day recently in the House of Commons. On the other hand, 36 per cent of Canadians believe Mr. O'Connor has been negligent and should have been monitoring what was happening to the detainees after they were turned over to Afghan officials.

The Harper government has been under steady siege in the Commons since allegations surfaced in late April that as many as 30 prisoners transferred by Canadians may have been abused.

I suspect Canadians are giving Minister O'Connor the benefit of the doubt in this affair. The fact that Canadian troops themselves are apparently not involved with detainee abuse, and that it is the Afghans who are the offenders, may allow for a good measure of absolution to the Canadian contingent," said Ipsos Reid senior vice-president John Wright.

Or it may reflect another part of the confused view that Canadians have of the Afghanistan mission. It would be an unspeakable evil to have our soldiers commit torture, but our hearts bleed less as long it's the Afghans doing it to their own.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mission Inexplicable

One of the curious notions of our age is that war not only can be fought according to plan, but that it will also actually follow one.

More curious still is the notion that striking out at those who have already attacked will actually make countries more vulnerable to further attacks, a notion put to rest by anyone who has ever stood up to a schoolyard bully.

Miseducation, cultural malaise, ignorance or naivete--whatever the cause, these notions now are about to force the Conservative government to seriously consider pulling out of Afghanistan despite a casualty count that would have been thought a merciful visitation in previous wars:

Anyway you look at it, today's SES Research/Sun Media poll on the attitude of Canadians to our military mission in Afghanistan is bad news for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

More than half of those surveyed say neither Canada nor NATO has deployed the resources necessary for success.

More than two out of three think our presence in Afghanistan makes us more vulnerable, not less, to a terrorist attack in Canada.

More than half say if there are further casualties -- a given since we're there until 2009 -- Canada should pull out.

Finally, more Canadians (48.3%) disagree with the government's management of the mission than agree (43.9%).

Afghanistan may be the most godforsaken land on Earth, a land otherwise best left to its own strange ways, but it is now part of that no man's land running over into the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan where the sole law is the law of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their minions.

It will not a peaceful, democratic land in our lifetimes. But it cannot continue to be the staging area and proving ground for world-wide jihad.

If some sort of government can be left behind to effectively contain and then eliminate that threat, the mission will have succeeded.

Our NATO allies, mostly enervated by the general Western European cultural decline, and fearful of their small but growing and militant Islamic minorities, have been sloughing their responsibilities on to Canada as a result.

Now is the time to communicate to the people that Canada has been standing almost alone, and has accomplished great things in doing so, but must call on its NATO allies to remember that Canada once paid much of the price for their freedom.

Communicate all of that above, with conviction, and Afghanistan will not threaten to bleed the government to death.

Gordon O'Connor can't do that. Can Stephen Harper?

The opposition won't.

Source: Toronto Sun

Friday, May 04, 2007

Grave Robbery

The greatest prime minister Canada never had is now having his legacy marred by the sort of petty squabbling that marks too many fights over prominent persons' estates:

A bitter fight over Robert Stanfield's estate has sprawled over three years, prompted legal action in two provinces, and is now robbing the former Nova Scotia premier and leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives of his headstone.

Known as "the best prime minister Canada never had," Mr. Stanfield died in 2003 at the age of 89. He was buried at Halifax's Camp Hill cemetery, alongside other prominent Canadians such as brewer Alexander Keith and Joseph Howe, a former premier.

Mr. Stanfield's gravesite has now become embroiled in a legal battle between his third wife, Anne, and his four children from his first marriage.

Ms. Stanfield had the tombstone removed last fall, reportedly with plans to install a larger monument. The move angered her stepchildren, who argue Ms. Stanfield had no right to alter their family burial plot until a larger dispute over Mr. Stanfield's estate is settled. Last Thursday, the children filed a request for an injunction at a Halifax courthouse, asking Ms. Stanfield be barred from installing a new headstone and "restore the Stanfield lot to its previous condition."

Mr. Stanfield's son, Max, previously told the CBC that he and his siblings did not believe that their father would want a larger tombstone.

The tombstone dispute is just the latest fight in an ongoing family feud. In 2004, Mr. Stanfield's children launched legal action in Ontario, contending their father was not mentally competent when he altered his will in 1998 in order to award the bulk of his estate to his third wife.

Let the wife and children fight over the estate until there's nothing left.

But a man of Stanfield's public stature should not be left to lie under an unmarked grave like a pauper. Let the province put up the memorial, if necessary.

Source: National Post

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Canada's Least Wanted

No doubt some people will be tempted to nominate the usual gang of notorious criminals who, horrible though their crimes may be, caused no measurable damage to the functioning of the Canadian polity.

No doubt others will name whichever prominent politician whose ideology disagrees with them, no matter their actual effect on the peace, order and good government of the Dominion.

But everybody has an idea about who the worst Canadian of all time is.

Whoever that person might be, he is likely someone whom most Canadians have never heard of, but whose influence on public policy has been especially malign.

Maurice Strong would be such a candidate, because his visions of an authoritarian world government, and his backroom influence, have had significant influence on the drafters of the Kyoto Accord, the International Criminal Court, and other such unaccountable transnational institutions and agreements.

Who else can you think of?

We're In The Money

Political scientists and historians will look back on the previous Liberal government's decision to ban corporate donations as a death wish, for it turned one of their greatest strengths into a fatal weakness.

Not that Tories should be complaining:

Stephen Harper's Conservatives raised almost 10 times more money from 10 times more donors than the Liberals in the first three months of 2007.

Even the NDP — historically the poorest of the three main national parties — managed to raise twice as much money as the once-mighty Grits.

According to quarterly fundraising results, posted Tuesday by Elections Canada, the Liberals managed to raise only $531,141 from 4,365 donors.

By contrast, the Tories vacuumed up almost $5.2 million from more than 45,000 contributors. The NDP scooped up $1.2 million from almost 15,000 donors.

Bearing in mind that the Grits might have been tapped out following their leadership race, this is still a pathetic result for Canada's self-proclaimed natural governing party.

It's going to show on the campaign trail too: the public can tell an expensive campaign from a cheap one. And it will make the Liberals look even less ready to govern.

Unless they resort to loans from generous benefactors that get mysteriously written off. That would be the Liberal way.

Source: Globe and Mail

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Til The Cows Come Home

Slacking on the job is a chronic problem everywhere, but even this response might be taking matters a little far.